The Justice League Takes a Darker Turn in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK

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Justice League Dark on Blu-ray

When people across the country begin to go on killing sprees, blaming their outbursts on visions of demons and monsters, Superman (JERRY O'CONNELL) and Wonder Woman (ROSARIO DAWSON) suspect the supernatural may be involved. But Batman (JASON O'MARA) has his doubts--even though, as is pointed out, the Justice League has encountered magic a number of times. It doesn't take long, however, thanks to the intervention of Deadman (NICHOLAS TURTURRO), before Batman seeks out an old ally in Zatanna (CAMILLA LUDDINGTON). He needs her to find John Constantine (voiced, appropriately, by CONSTANTINE actor, MATT RYAN), who resides in the interdimensional House of Mystery.

John, meanwhile, is involved in a poker game with Jason Blood (RAY CHASE) against the Demons Three -- Abnegazar, Rath and Gast -- with the stakes being raised to the point where John has the House on the line against the demons' offering of a chest full of magical trinkets, among which are the Dreamstone. It's a game where both sides are cheating, but we both know who cheats the best at this point, and despite there being a magical battle, Constantine -- after forcing Etrigan the Demon to take over Jason Blood -- emerges the winner.

When forced into action by Batman and Zatanna, John requires a magical item currently in the possession of a former friend of his. If you know Constantine, you know he has a lot of former friends, and not many current ones. This one, Ritchie Simpson (JEREMY DAVIES), has acquired a form of magical cancer, and his home is surrounded by cloaked spirits awaiting his death so they can usher his spirit to Hell. This is a great scene, because Batman is flying blind throug so much of this, unable to see the spirits the rest of the characters interact with. The spirits recognize Batman, claiming he's cheated them numerous times. John tells Batman the spirits are there, and we see one of them in Batman's face. Knowing Batman can't see them at all, when Batman lets out a small "Boo" -- and the spirit recoils! -- it's both hilarious and demonstrative of just how scary Batman is in the DC Universe.

The trail leads the team (with help from SWAMP THING, voiced by ROGER CROSS) to the sorceror Felix Faust (ENRICO COLANTONI). However, it may not be Faust who is behind the chaos, particularly where the Dreamstone is involved.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK is a very entertaining chapter in the consistent DC Direct-To-DVD Animated Universe. It's also a very R-rated one, given the tone and content of many of the scenes and the body counts involved. Oh, and then there's a monster made of poop that has to be defeated. Yeah, that happens. But even so, it's a great story from J.M. DeMatteis and Ernie AltBacker, under the direction of Jay Oliva, that adult fans of DC Entertainment will want to check out. And it ends in a way as to hint that there may be more of this new team of Justice Leaguers in the future.

The bonus features on this release include several short vignettes that take viewers into the backstory of all the characters -- Swamp Thing, Constatine, Deadman, even Black Orchid. You also get a ringside seat at the 2016 New York Comic-Con panel about the show, and two bonus cartoons.

For this reviewer, however, the most exciting bonus was the preview of the next thing in line for these releases, which is TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT. This is a story I've been waiting to see translated to the screen since DC first began doing direct-to-DVD animated releases, and before they settled on the consistent animated universe where their stories now take place. As such, the story won't be a direct translation of the Marv Wolfman / George Perez classic. Nightwing will appear, but the Titans will be the team we saw back in JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, as the completed scenes that we do get to glimpse in this sneak peek seem to be gearing up to be quite the show.

4.5 / 5.0